Book collage

Climate science attriution… that is, the research into how specific extreme weather events may or may not be linked to the warming of the planet’s atmosphere. It’s one of the “hot” areas in climate science today, with pleny of policy relevance depending on where it all leads. An academic (and former book store owner) offers up some tasty book selections for those wanting to be in the know.

Science, Social Science, and Policy

Book collage A

Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes, by Kerry Emanuel (Oxford University Press, 2005; 284 pages; $55.00)

A classic in need of an update – In Divine Wind, Kerry Emanuel, one of the world’s leading authorities on hurricanes, gives us an engaging account of these awe-inspiring meteorological events, revealing how hurricanes and typhoons have literally altered human history, thwarting military incursions and changing the course of explorations. Offering an account of the physics of the tropical atmosphere, the author explains how such benign climates give rise to the most powerful storms in the world and tells what modern science has learned about them. Interwoven with this scientific account are descriptions of some of the most important hurricanes in history and relevant works of art and literature.

The Disaster Profiteers: How Natural Disasters Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Even Poorer, John C. Mutter (Bloomsbury Books, 2015; 288 pages; $28.00)

In The Disaster Profiteers, John Mutter, previously the deputy director of the Earth Institute and now a professor at Columbia University with appointments in the departments of Earth and Environmental Sciences and International and Public Affairs, argues that when no one is looking disasters become a means by which the elite prosper at the expense of the poor. As the specter of increasingly frequent and destructive natural disasters looms in our future, this book will ignite an essential conversation about what we can do now to create a safer, more just world for us all.

Disasters & Climate Change, by Roger Pielke, Jr. (Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, 2015; 126 pages; $9.99 paperback)

In recent years the media, politicians, and activists have popularized the notion that climate change has made disasters worse. But what does the science actually say? Roger Pielke, Jr. takes a close look at the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the underlying scientific research, and the data to give you the latest science on disasters and climate change. What he finds may surprise you and raise questions about the role of science in political debates. The Rightful Place of Science series tackles urgent topics across a range of complex techno-scientific subjects in brief, clear, and to-the-point books.

Hurricane Katrina, 10 Years Later

Book collage B

Is this America? Katrina as Cultural Trauma, by Ron Eyerman (University of Texas Press, 2015; 183 pages; $24.95 paperback)

Is This America? explores how Katrina has been constructed as a cultural trauma in print media, the arts and popular culture, and television coverage. Using stories told by the New York Times, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Time, Newsweek, NBC, and CNN, as well as the works of artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and graphic designers, Ron Eyerman analyzes how these narratives publicly articulated collective pain and loss. He demonstrates that, by exposing a foundational racial cleavage in American society, these expressions of cultural trauma turned individual experiences of suffering during Katrina into a national debate about the failure of the white majority in the United States to care about the black minority. Is This America? is one of four new volumes in The Katrina Bookshelf series from The University of Texas Press.

Katrina: After the Flood, by Gary Rivlin (Simon & Schuster, 2015; 480 pages; $27.00)

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southeast Louisiana – on August 29, 2005 – journalist Gary Rivlin traces the storm’s immediate damage, the city of New Orleans’s efforts to rebuild itself, and the storm’s lasting effects not just on the city’s geography and infrastructure – but on the psychic, racial, and social fabric of one of this nation’s great cities . . . . This book traces the stories of New Orleanians of all stripes – politicians and business owners, teachers and bus drivers, poor and wealthy, black and white – as they confront the aftermath of one of the great tragedies of our age and reconstruct, change, and in some cases abandon a city that’s the soul of this nation.

The “Katrina Effect”: On the Nature of Catastrophe, William M. Taylor, Michael P. Levine, Oenone Rooksby, Joely-Kym Sobott, editors (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015; 304 pages; $25.99)

On August 29th 2005, the headwaters of Hurricane Katrina’s storm-surge arrived at New Orleans, the levees broke and the city was inundated. Perhaps no other disaster of the 21st century has so captured the global media’s attention and featured in the ‘imagination of disaster’ like Katrina. The Katrina Effect charts the important ethical territory that underscores thinking about disaster and the built environment globally. . . . This collection of critical essays assesses the storm’s global impact . . . Given the ‘perfect storm’ of environmental, geo-political and economic challenges facing liberal democratic societies, communities will come under increasing strain to preserve and restore social fabric while affording all citizens equal opportunity in determining the forms that future cities and communities will take

Superstorm Sandy

Book collage C

Super Storm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy, by Kathryn Miles (Dutton Books, 2014; 359 pages; $27.95)

Sandy was not just enormous, it was also unprecedented. As a result, the entire nation was left flat-footed. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration couldn’t issue reliable warnings; the Coast Guard didn’t know what to do. In Superstorm, journalist Kathryn Miles takes readers inside the maelstrom, detailing the stories of dedicated professionals at the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service. The characters include a forecaster who risked his job to sound the alarm in New Jersey, the crew of the ill-fated tall ship Bounty, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Christie, and countless coastal residents whose homes – and lives – were torn apart and then left to wonder . . . When is the next superstorm coming?

Storm Surge: Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future, by Adam Sobel (Harper Waves, 2014; 336 pages; $27.99)

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy reached the shores of the northeastern United States to become one of the most destructive storms in history. But was Sandy a freak event, or should we have been better prepared for it? Was it a harbinger of things to come as the climate warms? In this fascinating and accessible work of popular science, atmospheric scientist and Columbia University professor Adam Sobel addresses these questions, combining his deep knowledge of the climate with his firsthand experience of the event itself. . . Storm Surge brings together the melting glaciers, the warming oceans, and a broad historical perspective to explain how our changing climate and developing coastlines are making New York and other cities more vulnerable. Engaging, informative, and timely, Sobel’s book provokes us to think differently about how we can better prepare for the storms in our future.

Superstorm Sandy: The Inevitable Destruction and Reconstruction of the Jersey Shore, by Diane C. Bates (Rutgers University Press, January 2016; 192 pages; $27.95 paperback)

Diane C. Bates offers a wide-ranging look at the Jersey Shore both before and after Sandy, . . . . She explains why the Shore is so important to New Jerseyans, . . . She analyzes post-Sandy narratives about the Jersey Shore that trumpeted the dominance of human ingenuity over nature (such as the state’s “Stronger than the Storm” advertising campaign) or proclaimed a therapeutic community (“Jersey Strong”) – narratives [that waylayed] any thought of the near-certainty of future storms. . . . Engagingly written and insightful, Superstorm Sandy highlights the elements that compounded the disaster on the Shore, providing a framework for understanding such catastrophes and preventing them in the future.

Hurricanes from History

Book collage D

Sea of Storms: A History of Hurricanes in the Greater Caribbean from Columbus to Katrina, by Stuart B. Schwartz (Princeton University Press, 2015; 472 pages; $35.00)

Taking readers from the voyages of Columbus to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Stuart Schwartz looks at the ethical, political, and economic challenges that hurricanes posed to the Caribbean’s indigenous populations and the different European peoples who ventured to the New World to exploit its riches. . . . Schwartz sheds light on catastrophes like Katrina by framing them within a long and contentious history of human interaction with the natural world. Spanning more than five centuries and drawing on extensive archival research in Europe and the Americas, Sea of Storms emphasizes the continuing role of race, social inequality, and economic ideology in the shaping of our responses to natural disaster.

The Storm of the Century: Tragedy, Heroism, Survival, and the Epic True Story of America’s Deadliest Natural Disaster: The Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900, by Al Roker (William Morrow, 2015; 324 pages; $27.99)

On the afternoon of September 8, 1900, two-hundred-mile-per-hour winds and fifteen-foot waves slammed into Galveston, the booming port city on Texas’s Gulf Coast. By dawn the next day, the city that hours earlier had stood as a symbol of America’s growth and expansion was now gone. Shattered, grief-stricken survivors emerged to witness a level of destruction never before seen: .. In this gripping narrative history, Al Roker from NBC’s Today and the Weather Channel vividly examines the deadliest natural disaster in American history – a haunting and inspiring tale of tragedy, heroism, and resilience that is full of lessons for today’s new age of extreme weather.

Thirty-Eight: The Hurricane That Transformed New England, by Stephen Long (Yale University Press, March 2016; 272 pages; $27.50)

The hurricane that pummeled the northeastern United States on September 21, 1938, was New England’s most damaging weather event ever. To call it “New England’s Katrina” might be to understate its power. Without warning, the storm plowed into Long Island and New England, killing hundreds of people and destroying roads, bridges, dams, and buildings that stood in its path. Not yet spent, the hurricane then raced inland, maintaining high winds into Vermont and New Hampshire and uprooting millions of acres of forest. . . . This book, by the founder and former editor of Northern Woodlands magazine, is the first to investigate how the hurricane of ’38 transformed New England, bringing about social and ecological changes that can still be observed these many decades later.

Michael Svoboda, Ph.D., is the Yale Climate Connections books editor. He is a professor in the University Writing Program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he has taught since...